Friday, April 11, 2008

Press 905.670.9721 to Reach.... A Real Person

ivr Today I had a run in with an automated answering service (also known as an interactive voice response system) when I tried to call another mission organization this afternoon.  I realized yet again just how much I loath them (the machine, not the mission organization). You know what I mean.  You phone a company, a church, a mission organization, your Internet provider or favourite airline, wanting to talk to someone and you get a message saying that you need to dial 111 to reach Joe Cool, 112 for Samantha Lantha, 113 for Cythia Skyler, and so the list goes on and on (which is exceptionally annoying if you are really busy or calling long distance). You press * to have the options repeated, only to realize that none of the options are the one you need.  So you hit 0, hoping to reach a real person.  But oftentimes nowadays, even that won't work but will instead drop you in a "general mail box" that no one ever physically answers and which is often a black hole where voice messages are sucked up, compressed and sent to some version of electronic purgatory for days of torment and neglect (and perhaps eventually a response).

I understand that part of the problem probably lies in the poor design of many of these systems. They often make all sorts of assumptions that you know either who you want to talk to or what department you need.  I also understand that such systems are often an attempt to cut costs, meant to free up salary and time from someone actually having to answer the phone.

But I think that they are more problem than what they are worth.  They depersonalize one's interaction with your organization, are often frustrating and time consuming, frequently misleading or confusing, and leave one asking why this group feels compelled to hide behind a computer.  I often hang up feeling far less positively inclined towards any organization who utilizes one of these systems.  Maybe it's just me but I don't think so.  I think that in our increasingly technological society, many of us yearn for a real person who takes the time to try to deal with us person-to-person in a friendly, civilized way.

It is my promise that we will never install an automated answering service at The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada.  I promise.  The only machine we will have on our phones is our answering machine which is turned on for after-hours calls, and for calls that come in during our weekly prayer meeting on Monday mornings.  We will not follow the lead of other missions and churches who greet you with an automated voice that drones off a list of names (which is completely unhelpful if you don't know who to talk to).  We will not drop you in the twilight zone of the "general mailbox" that you just know is covered with spider webs.

I promise that for as long as I am CEO of The Voice of the Martyrs, when you call our office during regular office hours, you will get a human being on the line; someone who will do his or her best to make sure that you get what you need in a timely fashion.  In this day and age when even Christian ministries are letting technology take the place of a personal touch, we are going to buck the trend.

No comments: